College Fit: How To Find The College That Fits You Best
Choosing a college is tough. With over 4,000 colleges across the country, narrowing down your choices to just a few might feel impossible. Whether you have no idea where to begin or you already have a dream school in mind, you should take some time to paint a picture of an ideal college that truly fits your needs and wants in all areas of your lifestyle and personality.
In this comprehensive guide, we will define college fit, explain why it’s important, and provide 10 essential factors to consider before making your final decision.
What Is College Fit?
College fit is pretty much what it sounds like: how well your chosen college fits your lifestyle and personality. When thinking about college fit, you need to consider the full picture. Some colleges may fit you well in one area of your life but be drastically far from what you want in other areas. It’s all about finding the right balance and choosing a school that fits your wants and needs while ensuring your comfort at the same time.
Why Is College Fit Important?
Many students restrict themselves to considering just one or two factors when making a decision between colleges. You might think academics or financial aid are the most important variables. It’s true that some variables may take precedence over others, but you have to consider every aspect of a college in order to determine whether or not you will be truly happy there.
Think about it. This is the place where you will spend a majority of your time for the next 4 years. Put in the time now to make sure the environment meshes with you academically, emotionally, socially, and financially. You can transfer to another school in the future, but finding the right fit immediately lets you settle in and truly enjoy your undergraduate career.
10 Factors to Consider When Choosing Your Best Fit College
As you research your future colleges, be sure to think about these 10 factors before making your final decision.
1. School or Class Size
Size impacts more factors of campus life than you might think. If you grew up in a smaller high school, you may want a similar learning environment in your college classes. At a large school, you won’t have the same ability to get to know your professors or have small, intimate discussions. At the same time, if you find that you learn better in a larger class, then you may want to attend a bigger school.
2. Public vs. Private
There are a few fundamental differences that separate public and private colleges. These differences usually stem from the fact that public universities receive state funding while private colleges are mainly funded by tuition and endowments. For that reason, private universities tend to be more expensive and sometimes offer less in terms of work-study grants.
Though this is not a universal difference between all public and private schools, you can often expect private colleges to be a bit smaller than state universities. They may also have stricter entry requirements or lower acceptance rates in general.
Location can be a major contributing factor to a positive college experience. After all, you probably won’t be spending all your time on campus, especially as you progress through your undergraduate career. You may even end up living in an apartment off campus.
Think about where you want to live. Do you want to be in the middle of a bustling city? Would you be happy in a small college town? Would you rather study in a more remote or rural area? Consider how you plan to spend your free time and whether or not you want to be involved with the surrounding community before you make your decision.
With tons of different clubs and sports at your disposal, college is a great opportunity to explore your interests. Check out the websites for your prospective schools to learn about their sports teams, popular clubs, study abroad programs, Greek life, and more. Try to choose a school that offers clubs and programs that cater to your unique interests so you can broaden your horizons and meet others who have similar interests.
It’s important to consider who you want to be surrounded by in your new learning environment. Do you want to meet students from across the country (or even the world) or would you prefer to make friends with people from your area? Would you thrive in a single-gender school or would you rather be in a co-ed atmosphere?
No matter what, you will have new experiences and meet interesting new people when you go away to college, but you can place yourself in an environment that is more or less in your comfort zone depending on your preferences.
6. Campus Resources
Depending on funding, schools may have various resources available on campus to help students adjust and maintain their health and happiness throughout their undergraduate careers. Many colleges now have LGBTQ+ organizations and Black Student Unions to offer unique support to all students in attendance.
You may also want to research how your prospective schools handle the following unique needs:
- Special learning resources.
- Disability resources.
- Mental health services.
- Physical health services.
- Campus security and safety.
7. Financial Aid
For many students, financial aid may be the central point of their college decision. One school may perfectly fit your ideal college setting but be out of your price range. If you find yourself in this situation, you may find it helpful to talk to your guidance counselor or do some research of your own to locate schools with similar environments for a lower price.
Remember, too, that you most likely won’t end up paying the full sticker price for your chosen school. By working hard to earn good grades and round out your college applications with a variety of extracurricular activities, you can gain scholarships to assist your tuition payments. Many schools also offer aid packages based on your financial need, so don’t give up on your dream school just yet!
It can be hard to determine a school’s atmosphere just by perusing its website. This is typically when a campus visit becomes useful. As you walk around, try to assess the general feeling of being on campus. If you visit multiple schools, you’ll probably notice that some campuses may be quieter while others are more lively.
Your social needs and your goals of coming to college can affect what you want in a college atmosphere. Those who are more focused on their studies may want a quiet atmosphere. Others who are looking to make connections may thrive on a livelier campus. It all comes down to your personal preferences and where you feel the most comfortable.
An aspect of college that students might overlook in their initial decisions is housing. Even if you don’t plan to spend a lot of time in your dorm, you still need a comfortable place to rest when you aren’t busy. Spend time thinking about housing options so you don’t end up in a living space that doesn’t suit your needs.
Ask yourself the following questions about your ideal living space:
- Do you want to live in a dorm?
- Are you okay with having one or more roommates?
- Would you like to live in a co-ed dorm?
- Do you feel comfortable sharing a bathroom with others?
- Would you rather live off campus?
- Do you want to move into sorority or fraternity housing eventually?
A college’s philosophy encompasses a number of different factors, such as politics, religion, and overall academic mission. Many schools are affiliated with a certain religious denomination. While you do not have to be of that religion yourself to attend, you may be expected to attend religious services as part of your curriculum. Other schools may align with conservative or liberal politics or fall somewhere in the middle.
Colleges may also approach the general philosophy of education differently. A liberal arts college will take a more holistic approach to learning, expecting students to fulfill certain credits in courses outside their unique area of study. Other schools may require you to complete a universal core curriculum before entering your specialization. You may also attend a school that allows you to jump directly into the focus of your studies. Think about which educational approach appeals most to you before making your final decision.
If you’re unsure about whether or not a school fits you or how to find schools that match you, try talking to your guidance counselor for guidance, ideas, and suggestions. They typically have a basic understanding about a variety of colleges and can help steer you in the right direction.
We highly recommend performing your own research as well. Check out the school website, read testimonies from students, and watch video tours of the campus. Look out for extracurricular activities, clubs, and resources that interest you. It may help to make lists that keep track of the pros and cons for each of your potential choices. You can also talk to a college admissions consultant to find the best possible fit.
Once you narrow your options down to a handful of schools, campus visits can give you the last bit of information you need to make a final decision. By walking around for a few hours or even staying overnight, you can get a better feel for the atmosphere of the school and how you will interact with your potential fellow students.
Remember, there’s nothing wrong with transferring away from a school if you end up unhappy there. However, with a little extra effort and research now, you should be able to find a school that fits your needs and makes you happy for the entirety of your undergraduate career.